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As mentioned from my previous post about joining a women's health study, I received a free copy of the book Super Immunity: The Essential Nutrition Guide for Boosting Your Body's Defenses to Live Longer, Stronger, and Disease Free by Dr. Joel Fuhrman. It was an excellent read and has added a new layer of evidence for me that the plant-based diet is the only diet we should have.
The book is focused on micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals) which should be what we center our diet around, not macronutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein). You could be hitting your macronutrient goals and still be micronutrient deficient. Since the state of our health is based around those micronutrients, the nutritarian approach focuses on revving up our immune systems not just to protect against infection but also to protect against cancer, heart disease, strokes, and dementia. Dr. Furhman cites that,
"the lifetime probability of being diagnosed with an invasive cancer is 44 percent for men and 37 percent for women. However, because of the earlier median age of diagnosis for breast cancer compared with other major cancers, women have a slightly higher probability of developing cancer before the age of sixty. Currently, one in four deaths in the United States is due to cancer."
Although these statistics are alarming, Dr. Fuhrman provides ease of mind with many recommendations on how to significantly reduce our risk of developing cancer along with reducing the risk of other diet-related diseases that commonly kill those on a Standard American Diet.
He also has a chapter regarding how to fight colds and viruses. He gives recommendations on how to prevent and combat these illnesses so that they do not affect our daily lives as often or as intensely as they may have if not for a strong immune system. He debunks many common remedies that could cause more harm than good in the mending process, such as eating chicken noodle soup. It can actually slow the recovery process by causing the body to have to work harder to digest the animal protein.
And in case you're wondering, no—you can't just supplement for optimal health. Many of these essential micronutrients are not easily absorbed as a supplement as they are consumed in their whole form from the plant. For optimal health, you need to be consuming it from the source.
In fact, the book explains that some instances of supplementation can be more harmful than good. For example, I'm sure if you're a woman you've been told to supplement with folic acid if you're at child bearing age and could potentially become pregnant. Although folate (the natural version found in plants) is essential for preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida that occur when the fetus’s spine and back do not close during development, folic acid is the synthetic version which can cause serious health concerns if consumed in high amounts.
Since many foods are fortified with folic acid, such as refined grain products, adding a supplement poses a risk of consuming too much. This is linked with the increased occurrence of certain cancers. However, there is no risk of consuming an abundance of the natural form, folate, in your diet. In fact, increased consumption of food-derived folate is linked with a decreased risk of breast and prostate cancer. Plants for the WIN!
This is just one of the many fallacies of supplementation and micronutrients that Dr. Fuhrman explains in this book. It is an excellent read for those wanting some motivation to eat healthier in the new year. He also provides a full chapter of recipes and a 2 week meal plan. Some of the recipes that I can't wait to try are Sweet Potato Cakes with Strawberry Sauce, Thai Longevity Stew, Bean Enchiladas, and Coconut Carrot Cream Pie (say what?!).